Aspiring rapper, Vonte Skinner, had his first amendment rights violated when his rap lyrics were admitted as evidence in his trial over five years ago . Skinner was convicted of attempted murder in 2005 after fellow drug dealer, Lamont Peterson, was shot multiple times at a close range. The first trial had no verdict, but the second one led to his conviction.
But that ruling changed for Vonte Skinner after New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled (6-0) that rap lyrics are not admissible evidence, even if they are violent.
“Four slugs drillin’ your cheek to blow your face off and leave your brain caved in the street…” this is just a sample of the 13 pages of lyrics that were read by prosecutors in Skinner’s first two trials. They were found in the back of his car during his arrest. However, some of these were penned well before the crime in question, 3 or 4 years before!
Justics Jaynee LaVecchia wrote the verses “risked poisoning the jury against the defendant.”
Ed Barocas of the ACLU told CBS news the lyrics prejudiced jurors and that no matter how vulgar and violent it’s freedom of speech. Shockingly, this is not the first time rap lyrics have been presented as evidence in a trial. Researchers found that since 2012, at least 31 cases in 16 states have had similar happenings.
This case has been closely watched by civil liberties advocates, who support that lyrics should be protected under freedom of speech.However, some argue that rap lyrics are treated differently because of their violent and vulgar content.
Opinions on Monday tooks famous works to a literal meaning. As an example. LaVecchia wrote “One would not presume that Bob Marley, who wrote the well-known song ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ actually shot a sheriff, or that Edgar Allan Poe buried a man beneath his floorboards, as depicted in his short story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ simply because of their respective artistic endeavors on those subjects.”